USA hockey at Kettler gives kids reason to smile
When the men’s Olympic hockey gold medal is awarded on Feb. 23 in Sochi, Russia, David Poile can only hope to predict the ending.
If it’s a happy one, he will be the first to tell you where it all began.
“We’re in the capital of the United States of America,” said Poile, who has been given the role of architect of the 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team.
“It sounds like the right way to start the first chapter of this book. It all started in Washington, D.C. … I like the symbolism. To me, it’s a little bit of symmetry and hopefully, chemistry.”
Team USA’s decision to choose Kettler Capitals Iceplex for its orientation camp was no coincidence. The training facility is considered one of the NHL’s best and on Tuesday it was filled to capacity with fans anxious to get a glimpse of tomorrow’s Olympians.
“I love the Olympics and I think they’re a great advertisement for youth hockey,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. “Every Olympic year we see an uplift in registration for young players. The interest level increases for both young men and young women.
“We’ve been very fortunate locally between the success the Caps have had, the opening of Kettler Capitals Iceplex and all the hockey moms and dads that support the kids. I think we’re one of the fastest growing hockey communities in the country.
“It’s a great honor. From a dozen years ago to now, to see this much interest and see this kind of turnout on a Tuesday afternoon is great.”
Team USA’s three-day orientation began with introductions and a team dinner on Sunday night, continued with on-ice youth clinics and inspirational presentations by members of the military on Monday and concluded with a Wounded Warriors game, autograph session and jersey unveiling on Tuesday.
“This is as good as any facility I’ve ever seen,” said Poile, who managed the Capitals from 1982-97 and is now GM of the Nashville Predators. “It was perfect for all the things we needed to do.
The camp is set to conclude with a team visit to Nats Park Tuesday night for a game between the Nationals and Marlins.
“In my mind it’s mission accomplished,” Poile said. “I think we have a blue print of what we have and what we’d like to get. We’ve all got our marching orders for the next couple months.”